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In Two Places at Once

Identity theft can turn an innocuous nightmare into a painful reality. Such reality was the case for Arizona resident Clifton Goodenough. Yes, even a guy with the last name Goodenough can fall victim.

Told in a story by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, problems for Mr. Goodenough began in 1995, as notices arrived from the IRS annually. For each year, the IRS system showed an individual with his social security number had earned income that was not reported on his tax return. Problem was, the extra income was earned in Las Vegas, while Goodenough worked as a nurse in a Phoenix hospital.

Goodenough had to deal with wage garnishment, bank levies, and other IRS collection action on tax liabilities that weren’t his. Goodenough had to explain his way out of the mess each year. At least the IRS accepted his explanation that multiplicity doesn’t work with humans. But that didn’t explain why it kept happening.

A few years ago, Goodenough got a lead when the annual IRS notice contained someone else’s name: Joseph Richard Sandelli. Sandelli was a casino worker in Las Vegas. Goodenough finally got suspicious, and an investigation commenced.

Authorities learned that Joseph Richard Sandelli was in fact Arthur Gerald Jones, who had been declared deceased by an Illinois court back in 1986.

Jones disappeared in 1979 after running from gambling debts and mob connections. In order to remain under the radar, he purchased Goodenough’s stolen security number and began to use it. Jones has been charged with several felonies, and is scheduled to appear in court in August.

I wrote about this story because, as you can see, all it takes is a social security number to perpetrate identity theft. Identity theft is a big problem. For example, you may have received an e-mail appearing to be from the IRS, asking for personal identification information. Let me be clear: The IRS does not initiate e-mail communication with taxpayers regarding tax account matters.

The IRS has a helpful page that shows what typical IRS phishing e-mails look like and how to report them. Think twice before mindlessly providing personal identification information. Don’t be the next Goodenough.

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